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Brad and Andrea's 2007 Cross Country Adventure

    Long Island, NY to the Pacific Northwest

    A daily blog of our 4 week trip in "The Blue Max" (our 91 VW Westy)

 Want more?  Our newest 2008 Alaska blog (not in a VW) is  at: http://alaska2008.tripod.com/alaska.htm

Here is the 2004 road trip blog  http://thebluemax91.tripod.com

   

This is my final post    8/21/07

Trip tally provided at bottom  of blog.

7/21

Sat

Day 1

Miles :  686 miles: Home to Fayette, Ohio

Click on the photo thumbnails to open pictures in a new window.

At Harrison Lake State Park, Fayette, Ohio

Highlight:  Dinner and drinks.  Relaxing after a long day of driving.
Buzzkill:

Arrived at campground at 5:30 pm, the few available sites we had to choose from were in a crowded loop.  Sites were on top of each other in open field.  Not typical of state park campgrounds we usually find.

Summary:

 

 

We left home at 6:00 am, and drove 686 miles until we reached our destination at 5:30 pm.  Nothing special at all...just a long day of driving with just gas and rest area stops.  This leg of the trip is the same as 2004, of which we drove about 20 miles further and stayed at a different state park.  What was a nice surprise was that there were no mosquitoes.   In 2004 they were so bad, we could not sit outside.  Cost of campsite $17.  Cost of gas fillups: $117.54 (this includes the full tank from when we left home).  The van is averaging 17 mpg. 

7/22

Day 2

Sun

Miles :  689 miles; Fayette Ohio to north of Rogers, Minnesota

pic 1: our travels, thus far

pic 2: Getting the Zodi heated shower prepped for 1st time in our spacious, secluded campsite. 

Highlight:  After driving a half an hour from the highway to the campground, we were very happy to find the large, spacious, secluded sites we expect.  Almost half way across the country!!
Buzzkill:

None, really

Summary:

 

 

 

Another long day of driving.  Drove from 8:00 until 6:00 pm, and this included gaining an hour for crossing into Central Time Zone.  We camped just west of Minneapolis at Sand Dunes State Park off of Hwy 94.  An awesome campground with only 36 sites- all wooded, huge and secluded.  For Christmas we bought ourselves the Zodi propane water heater for taking showers.  Today we got to test it out.  While the mosquitoes were out, they were in no way as swarming as when we camped back in 2004 (campground was off of Hwy 90).  Cost of campsite $12.  Cost of gas fillups:  $122.84

Observation: All around the twin cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) there was just so much "urban sprawl"-  development of big houses, condos and big business - reminded us of Florida in the landscape and architecture.   

7/23

Day 3

Mon

Miles  461 miles

Amongst the Cottonwood trees at General Sibley City Park in Bismarck, ND

Highlight:  The shower at General Sibley City Park
Buzzkill:

105 degrees today (as reported by D.Q. in Bismarck, ND).  Not a cloud in the sky.....brutal

Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Written in morning at start of day:  The day started out with a trip to Cabelas, Camping World and Super Target, all located right off the exit of onto Hwy 94.  Our goal is to get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.  We got back on the hwy at 11:00 from shopping.  We have 560 miles to go..will see how far we get. 

Written at and of day.  Ok, we made it as far as Bismarck which is about 2 hours east of the National Park.  Temps were so hot, and unless you have a VW bus, you can't understand that air conditioning  means you have the windows open.    While our bus is equipped with AC, it  really doesn't work, and second, it really drains the power, so that we can only do 65-70 even on roads with 75 mph.  It is only $7 a night at General Sibley City Park, in Bismarck.  The campground is almost empty.  This was a nice treat after a long, hot day of driving. 

Notes: North Dakota is a flat , long state.  We see lots of Scamp travel trailers.  Where are they made?

7/24

Day 4

Tue

Miles  510 miles

At Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Herd of buffalo cross road behind us. 

A Golden Eagle at the Park

Highlight:  The wildlife at Theodore Roosevelt National Park- see some of them in the pictures
Buzzkill:

115 degrees high temp. today (as reported in Flying J billboard).  No clouds in the sky until about 5:30 pm

Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

It was so hot today, that we had to change our plans.  Originally we were going to spend the entire day exploring the park, and camp in the area.  It was so darn hot, and I mean darn, darn , darn hot that we could not do anything except be miserably hot while driving- again no air conditioning.  We do the scenic loop of 36 miles and do get some nice rewards by seeing plenty of Bison, a mule dear, a Golden Eagle, wild horses and prairie dogs.  We meet a local Historical Society worker Chuck at the picnic area and chat with him for about an hour.   After that we hit the road and head west.  Not sure where we will end up, we keep driving until 7 pm.  Temps start to cool down about 5:30 pm when a wind/cloud storm (1 small spurt of rain) rolls on by.  It was hard to keep the van in its lane.  Tumbleweeds were in full force!

We settle in for the night about 10 miles west of Billings, Montana in Riverside City Park  in Laurel for $10 a night.  A well deserved stop.  Can't say the camping is ideal- it is right near train as well as oil refinery, but it is 1/2 miles off highway, and they have showers.   The park was once a WWII POW camp.

7/25

Wed

Miles  451 miles

Lolo Pass

Brad in a hot spring

Highlight:  The hot springs in Clearwater National Forest
Buzzkill:

The day was such a great day overall, no buzzkills!!

Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Our goal today is to travel route 90 to Missoula, then hook onto Route 12 through Lolo National Forest/Clearwater National Forest  through Idaho, on into Washington State.  Day starts out cool and crisp, due to an early morning sprinkle. Nice change from the last few days.  Without regret, we don't end up in Washington state just yet....

We stop off in Missoula for gas and provisions and an antique store (where I spent $1.00)  and chatted with owner Duke.  We proceed south out of Missoula to route 12 into Idaho.  This road takes us over the Bitterroot Range in the Clearwater National Forest.  Fabulous views and vistas all around.   We stop at the info center and learn of the hot springs ahead- an easy trail walk of a mile along the river with giant pine trees.  At the parking area, we chat a few minutes with fellow Vanagon Westfalia owners from Bozeman, Montana. 

The hot  springs were magnificent.  No one else was there, so we hopped from pool to pool and laid in them till my fingers were all wrinkled up.    After we get back to the van we decided to call it a day-  the National Forest is so nice, we are in no hurry to bypass it without more exploration.   Besides, It is still a few more hours to Washington border.  Route 12 is windy and goes up and down in elevation-not a fast moving road for us. 

We head up the road 5 more minutes to a small  free National Forest campground (Colgate Campground)  with about 8 sites.  The are only three other occupied sites.   While it is only 100 feet off the road, it also is right alongside the river , secluded and surrounded by trees.   A peaceful end to a wonderful day. 

7/26

Thu

Miles  not done driving today. 

Brad about to let go...

Highlight:  For Brad, using swing to jump into water in National Forest- for me, picking/eating wild Blackberries
Buzzkill:

While not scorching and brutal, it is a long hot day of driving.. 

Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Don't know how far we will drive today. We are still driving at 5pm.  Probably not to Mt. Rainer, maybe a fw hours before.  At 5 pm, We are now in Washington state- whoo hoo.  The terrain we have seen so far is similar so far to North Dakota, grassy rolling hilly mountains.  Farms as far as the eye can see- especially wheat.  We continue  following Route 12;  the Lewis and Clark Trail- it then hooks onto route 82 .

 We wake in the morning to see off in the distance smoly air, due to forest fires in the region- not too close however, for us to be in danger, but in the National Forest as told to us yesterday. 

Earlier in the day, Back in Idaho, in the National Forest, we pull off as Brad sees a swing rope over a deep part of the river.  An opportunity to cool off, and have fun.  I documented his feat.  Closer to the Washington border we hit some antique stores, and chat for a while with one proprietor Dave. 

We end up in Yakima, at Yakima Sportsman State Park.  A rip off at $19.  Spacious sites, with lots of shrubs, bushes, and birds separating the sites.  The tent area is secluded, and we enjoyed using our heated shower unit, as you had to pay tokens for the camp shower and we had no tokens and had no idea how to get tokens. 

7/27

Fri

 

Miles 79 miles Me, and Mt. Rainier

 The mamma bear

Highlight: Mt.Rainier and extra special highlight of seeing a mamma black bear
Buzzkill: Part of park road closed due to landslide/road washout
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We head off in the morning hoping to take route 12 into Rainier.  Unfortunately Route 12 near the park is clsoed, as well as portions of the park road due to road washout from floods earlier in week.  We have to take alternate route  410 into the park, causing us to change our plans.  We only have access from this entrance to the northeastern part of the park.  While this seemed to be a buzzkill at the time, it ended up to be a fabulous day, and evening at the campground. 

Once in the park, the only camp close to our proximity was White River.  We found a site $12, and then set out for an 8.4 mile round trip hike up to Emmett and Panhandle Glacier - a 4 hour round trip hike.  Trail was called Summerland Camp trail.  Fabulous views.  We are told there is a mamma and baby bear off the trail.  We only see the mamma bear.  She is about 200 feet away.  Very, very cool. 

We relax back at camp and have a nice campfire.  Awesome day.

7/28

Sat.

Miles 131 Up in the space needle

The Freemont Troll

Highlight: The Freemont Troll Sculpture
Buzzkill: Traffic jams in the city- could not get out easily.
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

The day started with us leaving Mt. Rainier due to the road closures.  We decide to spend the day in Seattle.  We first try for a campground outside the city, but due to it being Saturday, no luck....so we call on Bob (his brother Paul is in the LIVC).  

A day of touristy fun in Seattle.  The most important thing we had to do first was find the Freemont Troll- an artistic sculpture under the 39th street bridge.  The troll has stolen a VW Beetle off of the highway. 

Down in the heart of the city, we go up to the observation deck of the Space Needle.  We ride the historic monorail to Pike's Public Market (and buy some smoked salmon and few other things).  We buy panini sandwiches and eat in Steinbruek park. About 7:30 pm ish we  finally get to Bob's.  There are lots of musicians on street corners- very cool and interesting variety.  We had so much trouble getting out of the city due to a huge parade and marathon.  But it was worth it.

 We went out to dinner to Hale's Ale's Brewery/Pub  with Bob and his wife Kathleen.  We camp out in their driveway-very quiet, very secluded-right on the Pugent Sound- gorgeous home.  

7/29

Sun.

Miles 150 No more scorching temps.  We are cold now, up in the mountains.  Our campsite at Fairholme Campground. 

Sweaters and long pants!!

Highlight: Getting to Mt Olympic Park and seeing the glaciered mountain tops in the distance
Buzzkill: Raining in morning, could not enjoy top deck of ferry ride to Bainbridge Island
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We awoke to a light drizzle.  Took outdoor showers overlooking Pugent Sound in backyard of Bob and Kathleen's house.  Took off to catch 9:35am  ferry out of Seattle to Bainbridge Island leading to Olympic National Park.  Got to the ferry just in time...got stuck about 10 blocks north in front of Alaskan cruise ship terminal as passengers are disembarking.  People and taxi's everywhere. 

Could not enjoy the top deck of the ferry as it was still rainy.  Ferry and ride very pleasant otherwise.  Once on Bainbridge Island, we stopped for a bit in Port Townsend for some shopping- very cool, artsy, touristy town.  Bought some camp/hiking gear.  On our way out of town we stopped for spirits and groceries. 

Decided to camp at Fairholme Campground ( $12) within the park.  It is right on Lake Crescent and we figured we could go kayaking on Monday.  As it was now later afternoon and overcast, we just hung out at our campsite and lit a fire to stay warm.  Temps very different from the high plains desert. 

Lots of mosquitoes, though very slow moving and easy to swat. 

7/30

Mon

Miles 90 Kayaking at Crescent Lake

Deer family crossing road on way up  Hurricane Ridge

Both pictures are taken at Hurricane Ridge. 

Highlight: Kayaking at Crescent Lake and the views at Hurricane Ridge (yes, I get two highlights today)
Buzzkill: The smoking brakes on the van from the long, steep descent down Hurricane Ridge
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

An awesome day from start to finish (besides being woken up by a screaming crow).  Lake Crescent was calm for us as we kayaked for 2 hours in the morning.  The sun was shining brightly today, views all around us were excellent.   While the water was very, very cold, we had to at least go in (with snorkels on) for a few minutes.  Excellent visibility with the clear, blue water- very deep too. 

After kayaking, we bought some salmon jerky and enjoyed that as we drove back to Port Angeles entrance to drive up to Hurricane Ridge- a must for anyone coming to this park.  It is a long windy 17 mile drive up.  It starts at sea level and rises at a 7% grade to 5200 feet.  Once up on top in the parking area, there are several hikes on the ridge to go even higher for phenomenal views in all directions.

In the park today, we saw lots of deer on the road and in the woods, even saw a bear off in the distance.  There were lots of colorful wildflowers to enjoy along the paths. 

We completed our evening around the campfire at the same campground- long pants again as it is cold and buggy like the night before.

Observations:  There are a lot of Vanagons and Eurovans on the road.  Also, a lot of newer and older Pontiac sedans- something Brad says we don't see back home.

7/31

Tues

Miles 109 Brad, the tree hugger

Driftwood on the coastline at Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park

Hanging out in some driftwood on the beach.

Highlight: Reaching the coast- the beach at our campground
Buzzkill: Wanted to see elk as everyone says you can see in the Hoh Rainforest- but we saw none. 
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We started out with a drive to the Hoh Rainforest area of the National Park.  Brad hugs many a huge tree.  This part of the park is lush with trees, ferns and moss.  We do about 2 miles of hiking in this area. 

Afterwards, we drive to get to the coast.  We set our goal on Kalaloch campground ($18) right on the beach. Well our site is second path in- we are not "oceanfront", but a few hundred feet walk takes you to the staircase down the cliff- over the driftwood.   The driftwood is huge and a permanent resident on the beach.  You have to climb over it to get down to the water.  The campground is busy, but the sound of the ocean drowns out most sounds.  The beach is incredible.

Fog rolls in and out continually.  It was foggy when we arrived, but then cleared up for the most incredible sunset.  Sunset is about 9:30 ish.  Afterwards, we hung out back at our site by the fire before retiring for the evening. 

No bugs!!

8/1

Wed

Miles 112 miles

Leaving the Laundromat

At Twin Harbors State Park

Highlight: not a big day for highlights- although we did have a lot of interesting fun- enjoyed the smoked sausage shop
Buzzkill: no real buzzkill either- although the carwash being closed was a disappointment.
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Observations thus far:  So many of the forests have been clearcut- and not replanted.  It is very sad looking as the stumps and broken branches  just all lay there in the naked forest.

Today is laundry day.  We wake up and make our daily latte and take it down to the beach to watch the fog bank come in over the shore.  We decide to drive out of Olympic Park to Aberdeen to do do laundry, get the oil changed (as we now have put 3777 miles on since leaving home- and it was killing Brad we did not change it at 3000).  We also wanted to find a truck car wash, but the only one in town was closed for repaving. 

We were in and out of the Penzzoil Quick Lube shop and then on to the laundromat which had some interesting, friendly locals.  A few who chat with us as they see our NY plates.  Brad just happens to get a call from Gene at Volksworld (back home on Long Island) who is working on his 64 Beetle engine.  Bad news, the engine is shot.  Gene is going to use a block he has in stock and start to rebuild another engine. 

After leaving town we continue back to the coast and head south a bit.  We settle into Twin Harbor State Park ($19) which is near Westport, a fishing town on Gray's Harbor.  Right outside of town we stop in on a smoked sausage shop and buy some jerky, smoked turkey, sausage, provolone and local dried cranberries.  We head into Westport and walk the main street, and docks - perusing the gift shops and admiring all the fishing, charter boats.  We go to the adjacent state park where people are surfing and do a Geocache (treasure hunt game using gps- check it out at www.geocaching.com). 

We head back to camp and spend the evening around the campfire-  a lovely evening.  No bugs out.   The park is fairly empty and very, very quiet- and the sites nicely secluded.  We are across the main road from the ocean, and while we cant see it at all, can hear the waves - very tranquil.  Until Thurs. morning when we are awakened to continual coyote howling in distance.

8/2

Thurs

Miles 229 miles The Blue Max gets a bath

Mt. Hood- towers above the landscape, and can be seen from so many different viewpoints

Making a rip roaring fire at Sunstrip Campground

Highlight: Our visit to Portland- from our little sample of today's visit, we really like this place!!
Buzzkill: Rush hour traffic out of the city of Portland
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Observation:  gas is the cheapest so far we have seen on our trip.  We bought today at $2.79 per gallon.  Oregon is one of those states like NJ where there is no self serve.

We decide our little sampling of Washington has come to a close.  We have seen wheat farms, mountain peaks,  rain forest, city and coast line.  Oregon, here we come. 

Before heading out of the campground we take showers- first one since Sunday (besides lake swimming on Monday when kayaking).  The national parks we had been in prior to yesterday don't have showers. 

We decide to head inland into the Cascade Mountain area, but first a jaunt into Portland to Columbia's Flagship store.  We both love Columbia clothes.  On the way to Portland, we drive through Longview, Washington and find a truck "do it yourself" carwash.  Brad is in heaven.     On the way we see Mt. St. Helen's in background (Washington) as well as Mt. Hood (Oregon). 

In Portland, we easily find parking on the street for $3.75 (metered parking for 3 hours time).   At the Columbia store Brad buys a fuzzy fleece jacket.  We were hoping for good sales, but nothing at the store was discounted and their outlet stores are not in the city.   At another outdoor/outfitter store nearby in the city, I purchase a discounted active wear top.  Woo-hoo 50% off.  Before heading out of the city, we get frozen cappuccinos. Yum. 

 Rush hour traffic out of the city is slow moving.  It takes us over 2 hours to get to the Mt. Hood National Forest (about 45 miles).  There are many campgrounds along the Clackamus River.  We finally settle in at Sunstrip National Forest Campground for $16 (small camp 12 sites).  Besides the camp host, we are the only ones here.  Our site is right on the river.  We can hear the flowing water- again, very quiet, secluded and tranquil. 

We enjoy an evening around the campfire.  At first when we arrived there were mosquitoes, but they luckily disappeared. 

8/3

Friday

Miles 111 miles At Bagby Springs. 

Brad hanging out with a big cut downed tree.

Highlight: Bagby Springs
Buzzkill: making a wrong turn, and going 25 miles out of the way before getting to Bagby Springs
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We wake to another fine day.  We her that back home weather has been hot and humid.  We are waking to generally 50-60 degree temps- making its way to the 80's.  Very comfortable.

Also glad we were not on the bridge back in Minnesota when it collapsed. 

There are three hot springs in the area.  We decide we have to go to the unique Bagby springs.  After making a wrong turn and going 12 miles in wrong direction, we turn around and head back.  Lost about 30 minutes or so. 

We get to parking area ($5 fee) and now have to hike a leisurely, and lovely  3 mile round trip hike into the forest (we are currently in Mt. Hood National Forest). 

The hot spring water is channeled through intricate log piping into large hollowed out log tubs.  There is a log plug to keep water in, and stick plug to pull out to add water in.  the There are 5 private tubs  in individual rooms (we went in one of these) and some communal tubs.  There is cold river water channeled i in too to a large wood tub, that you add via bucket to your own personal tub to "cool" down the 135 degree water. 

After this wonderful "spa" treatment, we continued on our drive as we leisurely head south towards Crater Lake area for Sunday.  We stop in Detroit for some provisions, and are now in the Willamite National Forest, where we find some free, primitive camping.  Just pull off road anywhere you see dirt road cutoffs, and if there is a fire ring already there, you just set up and camp for evening. 

8/4

Sat.

Miles 179 Diamond Lake

Me and my pal, Smokey the Bear

Highlight: Meeting Smokey the Bear
Buzzkill: Scare with The Blue Max- the oil sensor light/buzzer went off for 2 seconds (weird stuff??)
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We are headed to Bend, Oregon today on our way south.

We leave our free campsite, and decide to drive through Bend, Oregon on our way towards Crater Lake National Park.  Bend is profiled in a recent Ourdoors magazine as one of the best places in US to live, so we see.  There are many mountains in the backdrop on our way- making for a scenic drive.  In Bend, we do a geocache, go to Harley dealer for a shirt for my brother Adam.  We walk down Wall Street which is a main street area with storefronts.  We then go to the Old Mill shopping mall area, and go to REI .  We buy some active wear (some on sale, some not).   

Brad likes Bend.  A new, clean city with mountains all around.  Gas is also cheaper in ORegon.  We get it in Bend for $2.78 a gallon.

We continue to Diamond Lake area which is just north about 10 minutes of Crater Lake area in the Umpqua National Forest.  This is where the good stuff starts.  We check in at Diamond Lake Campground ($12).  There are three sites left.  Nice campground- even showers. 

I chat with the lady in the office about Smokey, and how I did not buy a doll back Idaho.  She says the ranger station across the street sells them, and that Smokey is coming to the campground this evening.  Well, as you can see from the picture, not only do I buy a Smokey doll (and pin), I get a picture with my friend.  I tell Smokey how when I was little (along with my brother John) I sent away for our Smokey Jr. Ranger Kit.

Remember, only you can prevent forest fires (Smokey's motto).  

We enjoy a wonderful watching the sun set from our campsite over the lake.  We have incredible views of the skies, and stargaze until our necks hurt.  We decide on showering before bed, and have a bunch of laughs as the campground is so dark, we have trouble finding the shower house. 

8/5

Sun

Miles 110 The Blue Max at Crater Lake

Atop Mt. Scott 8900 ft

Brad overlooking Wizard Island

Highlight: Our hike up Mt. Scott at Crater Lake National Park
Buzzkill: Nothing really today, except high elevation gains along rim drive makes for slow driving
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the day at Crater Lake National Park. The rim drive is 33 miles around.  The best views are from atop Mt. Scott a 5 mile round trip hike that gains 1700 ft elevation.  This hike took us 2.75 hours.  Fabulous views, fabulous weather.  The water is so blue it looks fake. 

We went to visitor center bought a magnet for Brad's mom, and watched a 20 minute video on history of the lake and the park.  We sat in the closed room with about a dozen or so others waiting for the video to start...after about 10 minutes  Bra went out to ask ..

The ranger had forgot to start it. 

After that, we continued the rim trail, and exited the park.  We are all tuckered out, as we've been in the sun all day.  The hike was on a dry, dusty, sunny trail all the way up.

We drive northeast out of the park on our way towards the coast on Route 138.  We settle in at Otter Flats Campground which is on the west edge, but still in Umpqua National Forest ($12).  It is on a river- even has flush toilets.  Very quiet, very tranquil. 

8/6

Mon

Miles 178 miles Before we head off on the tour.

On the sand-rail trip (Brad gets to ride shotgun).  The driver Greg takes the pic.

On Siltcoos beach

Highlight: The sandrail ride from Sandland Adventures
Buzzkill: Having to go to Walmart for a new inverter  (to recharge my laptop and camera batteries). Old one blew a fuse, and is soldered into board,  so $20 for a new one.  But Walmart was a zoo on noon on Monday - thought it would be empty.  Doesn't anyone work??
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We head out of the mountains to the coast  via scenic byways and secondary highways.  We are headed to to the Oregon Dunes National recreation Area.  40 miles of sand dunes- the ATV rider's dream.

We made a pit stop at Roseburg (near interstate I-5) for gas and to go to Walmart for a few  items.  By the time we get to the coast it is after 2 pm.  We stop at the Coastal National Forest Visitor center for some info, and I buy another Smokey the Bear doll- a bit bigger than the one I bought the other day. 

It is an overcast day, but luckily no rain.  We go to Sandland Adventurers (www.sandland.com) and make reservations for the hour long dune tour at 4:30 pm.  We choose the smaller sandrail tour (seats 7) which offers more speed and thrills- although does not get airborne at all. 

We use the time in between to secure a campsite at National Forest's Lagoon Campground at the Siltcoos Rec. Area ($20).   We stop for wood, ice, milk  and then head back to the tour site. 

There are a total of 6 adults and one teen on the tour.  Brad gets to ride shotgun next to driver Greg.  Greg is very comical and clever.  He strategically makes the one teenager on the tour sit in passenger rear, as he gets blasted with sand continually during tricky maneuvers.  The minute we start, I know Brad is in his glory.  I can tell he thinks the driver's job is the best in the world. 

Before settling back at camp, we stop at the beach near our campground for some photos.  The water is COLD.  Before seeing/getting to the beach you have to walk up a VERY steep sand dune.   

We settle back at camp for a nice evening around the campfire.  A few mosquitoes out, but nothing we can't take care of. 

8/7

Tues

Miles 140 miles The overcast ,southern Oregon coast in the morning.

Rogue River tour: 5th row left.  They took picture from  a bridge and sold them back at the office.  I took a picture of it with my digital camera.

The Buzzkill of the day- stuck on the rocks.

Green highlight shows our route from T. Roosevelt Park to Gold Beach, Oregon

Highlight: The Rogue River tour boat
Buzzkill: Getting stuck on the rocks at Lobster Creek Campground.  Luckily resident camper Jerry saved the day
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Plan:  Head south to Gold Beach, Oregon for a 4 hour US Mail Boat tour on the Rogue River.  A jet boat that takes about 15 or so passengers on a on a river tour while delivering mail to remote villages along the coast of the river. 

Truth:  Well, the jet boat we were on had about 40 people.  We chose the 80 mile round trip tour  from noon to 4 pm.  Years ago, before roads led into the area, the only way that the remote town of Agness could get mail was via this boat service.  Now there are roads, but still a morning tour boat transports mail.  In the winter regular mail truck service delivers it.

The day started out overcast- as the tour began on the coast, and as we've experienced it so far, the northern  pacific has a foggy, cloudy coast.  As we traveled inland (east) the clouds gave way to blue skies ; making for a fabulous day.  Throughout the day we saw some deer, otters, bald eagles, ospreys, turkey vultures, herons, turtles, different kinds of ducks and water birds, and even a black bear. 

While on the tour, we passed a National Forest campground right on the shore of the river.  I told Brad I wanted to camp there tonight.  So after the tour, we headed to the Lobster Creek campground which is in the Siskiyou Nat. Forest ($6).  There were a couple of 2 wheel drive campers right on the river's banks...so, we attempted to camp there next to them.  Big mistake as we got stuck.  Luckily back on hard packed ground, a resident camper Jerry had a 4x4 pickup and helped pull us out.  We camped up on the hard packed ground, next to the "big rigs". 

We chatted a while with Jerry and his circle of friends who all gather to this campground for the summer and fish the river for salmon.  Nice bunch of guys. 

Tomorrow; California

8/8

Wed

Miles 103 Brad hugging a tree in the Stout Grove

Inside a hollowed out tree at our campsite at night

 

Highlight: The Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park
Buzzkill: Being defeated with our first Geocache attempt of the day.  The container was too small, and hidden to well in a high traffic area for us to be poking around any more than we were
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We left Oregon, and headed to Crescent City, Ca.  It is the first real town over the border, and also part of Redwood Park.  Checked out first sign we saw for public campground- Florence Keller State Park ($10).  Small camp with about 30 sites.  Tons of large redwoods- very dark in the campground due to thickness of them.  Then stopped in at Redwood Park Visitor's Center.

We went for a drive through Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park as recommended by park ranger at visitor's center.   There is a maintained 10 mile gravel road that winds through old growth Redwood.  We stopped at Stout Grove and did a small hike 1/4 mile loop through a grove of old growth trees live- up to 2000 years old.  These are some of the oldest living beings on the face of the earth (in fact, Sequoias are up to 3200 years old).

Stopped in at Lunkers on the other side of the drive.  It is a fishing shop that also runs shuttles and rents inflatable kayaks to go down Smith's River.  Decided it was too late today, so planned to come back tomorrow.  Very nice owner.  We sat on his couch in his shop and chatted a while about fishing. 

We spent the afternoon down in the  town of Crescent City -to check things out.  We went to the park and beach.   We even did a geocache.  We spent the evening in front of the campfire, enjoying the lack of bugs. 

8/9

Thu

Miles A record low for us at 29 miles The van next to a tree just as wide

Brad hugging Boy Scout Tree- biggest tree we've seen as of yet.

Kayaking on the Smith River

Highlight: Renting kayaks to "float" down the Smith River
Buzzkill: Almost all our pictures today came out blurry?? Have to check out camera. 
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We woke up with a full day planned.  We started out with a 4.4 mile hike on Fern Valley Trail to the Boy Scout Tree.  This is the biggest tree in girth that we have seen so far.  The trail to this is back on the gravel road through Jedediah Park. 

We finished at about 1 pm, but the skies were still overcast.  We were not sure if we wanted to rent the kayaks after all. 

We ate lunch, and decided to go ahead and rent the kayaks.  When we arrived at 2:15 pm at Lunkers, the owner said no one else had come in today to rent them yet.  Lucky for us we decided to go ahead, as the clouds finally cleared out about 3pm and we had blue skies all afternoon.  We follow Mick (owner of Lunker's) to the take out point, left our van, and get in his truck.  He drives three miles back up the river and it takes us about 3 hours to paddle back downstream.  A bunch of easy rapids thrown in, some snorkeling, and we we had a blast. 

The owner even gave us a discount.   He asked if we could deflate and return the kayaks to his shop.  Usually he comes back at end of day to the river to pick up all his kayak rentals, but we were the only ones, and he was not sure he was going to stay at the shop much longer. 

He was there when we returned at 5:30.    After chatting a bit with him, we headed back to Florence Keller Campground.  We had dinner, and sat around the campfire playing card games. 

8/10

Fri

Miles 214 Herd of male elk

Bigfoot Museum at Willow Creek

Highlight: Running into the quirky town of Willow Creek where Bigfoot is the star
Buzzkill: having no power up the hills of route 299- Brad even admitted he might one day consider Subaru conversion
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We left the Redwoods, on our way down the coast to Eureka (quick stop at Harley/Buell dealer for some shirts).  Then, headed on the long journey east on route 299.  Came across Willow Creek, a small town where Bigfoot is the star.  The famed 1967 filmed sighting happened here.  Even bought a Bigfoot postcard at the museum.  I was going to buy some Bigfoot wine, but at $20 a bottle, it was overpriced.  Stopped at an antique store and got a Junior Forest Ranger hat (too small though).  Stopped at another shop I thought was antique store, wound up a used car lot with some "stuff" on the front porch for sale.  Bought a vintage Coleman fold up picnic table with two stools (that need reupholstering).  Luckily it fits up the luggage well on the roof. 

Passed an elk preserve and while we did not see many there, just on the outskirts there was a herd of males, all rubbing felt off their antlers in the trees.  Mothers and babies further up the road in their own field. 

Being a Friday, we did not want to drive too late before trying to secure a campsite.  It was about 4:30 when we stumbled upon Steel Bridge Campground a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground $5.  Only 10 or so sites.  On Trinity River.  Saw some black tail deer, and I ate blackberries from the bushes down by the river.  So hot today compared to what we've experienced, we did not even have a campfire.....but did take a heated shower with our Zodi unit.  Had to use water from the river, as there was no potable water at this campground. 

8/11

Sat

Miles 136 Overlooking Lake Shasta (at the caverns)

In Shasta Caverns

At Craggs Campground in Lassen Volcanic Park

Highlight: Even though the caverns were a bit disappointing it was the highlight of the day
Buzzkill: The process of seeing the caverns...long and time consuming, for a 45 minute tour
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Another hot day off of the coast, and out of the mountains.  Route 299 (and route 44) continued to be windy and hilly, changing elevation between  1000 and 5000 feet in elevation.  And all the while, I just want Brad to pull over to pick pinecones. 

We were going to make a pit stop at the Lake Shasta Caverns on Lake Shasta (manmade lake caused by 2nd largest dam in US).  This was a ten mile diversion north of Redding (town we pass through on way to national park).  I Was unaware that to get to the caverns you had to drive down a long, windy road.  Then walk down a switchback path to the boat ramp where a boat takes you on a 10 minute ride across the arm of the river.  Then buses shuttle you up another windy road.  After a wait until your tour gets to go, you finally get into the caves where temps cool down. 

After exiting the caves, there is a huge, staircase that you go down for about 10 minutes, before being loaded back on the buses, to the boat ramp, onto the boat, back to the dock, where you  have to walk back up the path to the visitor's center.  A long, 3 hours process. 

We hit some antique stores (bought more vintage Smokey paraphernalia on our way down back to Redding where we now hooked onto route 44 leading to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  We got to the park about dinner time, not knowing if we would be able to secure a site, as Saturday is the toughest.  Luckily, a few campgrounds were still open.  We chose a site at Craggs Campground for $12.  Not to private as it is not heavily wooded, but  good for star gazing .  A bit chilly at night- so we light a campfire. 

P.S. to Rich, we sadly finished off your "soupy" ( homemade Italian soprasada) tonight. 

8/12

Sun

Miles 152 At Bumpass Hell

Lassen Peak

Showing off my pinecone finds

Highlight: Exploring the park- hiking to Bumpass Hell
Buzzkill: Realizing at this point, something is wrong with my new camera- 2/3rds of my pictures won't focus- of course  the camera got blasted with sand while at Sand Dunes, and got splashed with water while on the Rogue River trip.
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We awoke to another crisp, cold clear day up in the mountains.  We drove the scenic road through the park and did an easy 3 mile round trip hike to Bumpass Hell (an area similar to what we saw at Yellowstone in 2004) with boiling mud pots, fumaroles, and thermal pools.  There were fields all around with purple hyacinth looking flowers- very fragrant and pretty.  Before Mt. St. Helen's blew in the 1980's, Lassen Peak was the last volcano to blow its stack in the US (this was around 1920).  This park is very interesting for the geological buff.  Lots of different tundra, landscapes, volcanic states.

After leaving the park, we traveled south east on road 89.  A windy, hilly road through small towns, and national forests.  We stopped at a junk/antique shop and chatted quite a bit with elderly proprietor Esther (Eddie) who along with her husband worked 4 years for EZ Camper and installed camper interiors into VW Splitties. 

We stopped along the road to find the largest of my pinecones so far on this trip.  While I don't know what type of pine they are from, surprisingly they are not from the Redwoods, whose pine cones are the size of a large olive. 

We settled in at a wonderful campground right off of route 89 in the Tahoe National Forest- Cottonwood Creek ($16).  One of the nicest campgrounds we've been to.  Clean, tidy, secluded and practically empty....and free firewood provided (well stacks of logs Brad had to use his hatchet on). 

8/13

Mon

Miles 316 At Reno (the top of sign was cut off)

 

Sunset at the campground

 

Highlight: My big win (comparatively) at Reno, and the surprise of a gorgeous campground
Buzzkill: the longer than anticipated drive off the highway to the campground
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We left our campground and ventured a bit out of our way to Lake Tahoe area for a drive by, as well as doing our last geocache.  Was hazy skies, so lake was not as beautiful as I was expecting- similar to when we saw pacific ocean. 

After that, we stopped in at Reno with intention we would each spend $20, then get out of there.  We parked for free at garage at Casa-Nev Resort Casino and felt obligated to gamble there.  We each spent $2 on the 5 cent slots.  Both lost all our $ in a matter of minutes.  We went next door to Harrahs.  I spent $1 in a Wheel of Fortune penny slot..no good.  Then my luck changed.

Brad and I sat at adjacent penny slots- mine was Tiki Treasure.  We each put in $2.  On my 5th pull (I was spending 5 cents per pull) I hit $37.50 plus 8 free spins.  Whoo hoo.  At the end of the free spins, my pot was at $57.05.  I cashed out, and called it a day.  Statistically, that is a big win, when you are playing penny slots.  Thank you. 

Before leaving Reno, we stopped at Sierra Trading Post Outlet (only bought a new Coleman lantern that screws onto propane cylinder- broke our globe the other day). 

We then hit the highway...boring route 80 through Nevada.  Hot, hazy (but dry).  We drove till we got to Elko (not too many public campgrounds off of route 80).  My campground book only said 10 miles, but it was more like 16 to the campground.  Had to battle a big hill/mountain too.  This is not fun, when you just don't know if the campground is booked up or not....but all worked out,.  We pulled into Southfork State Recreation Area Campground cranky, hot, tired and hungry, but all changed.....

I think this is the nicest campground we have seen so far...maybe because the scenery is very different from everything we've seen so far.  We were down in a canyon, and had  360 degree vista- lakes, mountains, plains- saw some jack rabbits too.   Better yet, the normal $10 fee was not being charged, so we camped for free. 

The campground had about 24 sites, and there were only two other campers there.  We had a lakefront  site, with beautiful newly renovated facilities.  We  took outside showers with our Zodi unit, before we realized there were showers (our campguide was not up to date, so we did not even think to check the facilities first).  \

Since we got there at dinner time, it was cool and crisp and comfortable.  We stargazed a big, but skies had a bit of clouds.  After going to bed, we were awakened several times by a lot of howling coyotes off in the distance. 

8/14

Tues

Miles 452 Elko, Nevada, to Rock Springs, Wyoming Brad on the Zipline (blurry from stupid camera)

Took pic of myself on zipline (blurry, again from stupid camera)

Our beautiful campsite at Wallyworld, complete with trees and plateaus in distance (behind highway).

trip so far

Highlight: While not as thrilling as I had expected, the highlight was the Zipline ride at the Utah Olympic Training Center
Buzzkill: No Pam's BBQ Restaurant at the Rock Springs exit as a previous billboard had advertised
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

We woke early to sounds of park employee emptying garbage cans, as well as construction worker installing sun shelter over picnic table at nearby site.  It gave us some time to sit out on our chairs and gaze at the surroundings.  So much to see of in distance.  In the forests, you can't see past the trees. 

We were heading past Salt Lake City today, and I had wanted to stop in at the Park City Olympic Traning Center to try out the Extreme Zip Line Ride.   You take a chairlift up to start point.  You are strapped in a harness and the gate opens, you travel 1500 feet down, starting at 40 mph, and automatic braking system slows you down as you descend.  $20 each.  If we had wanted to do again, only $10.  Once was fine. 

We then watched many downhill skiers practice on astroturf lined ramps.  The ramps with the skiers  doing flips, would land them in a pool of water.  Very interesting.  Across the street from the Training Center was grocery, so we stopped in for some provisions  before heading back on the highway. 

We traveled into Wyoming and had no campground lined up as I-80 does not run alongside any national forests or public campgrounds...there were a few, but with 20-30 miles off the highway, not what we wanted to tackle.

We decided Rock Springs would be our destination, as I was sure this town would have a Walmart.  From the billboards, it seemed to be a town with a lot of commerce.  Sure enough, there was one.  We had passed a billboard for Pam's BBQ Restaurant, and decided that we would splurge (the only other time we have eaten out was in Seattle with Bob and Kathleen).  Well, we rode up and down the main drag and could not find it.  I got online to yellowpages.com and found address and phone number.  Called Pam, only to have her apologize that restaurant is closed and she only does catering. 

We ate a quick chicken/rice dish I prepared in the van, at Walmart.  Our big event of the evening was a trip inside "Super" Walmart to browse and pick up a few  more grocery items. 

8/15

Wed

Miles 509 miles:  Rock Springs, Wyoming to North Platte, Nebraska Our campsite right on Lake Maloney

Brad relaxing by the fire (pre shave)

Highlight: Our breaks in driving to Sierra Trading Post and Cabela's
Buzzkill: Battling the Continental Divide in Laramie, Wyoming- but it is all downhill from here
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Today was all about driving.  At least it was comfortable as the skies were cloudy/partly sunny.   We saw lots of desolate highway  (and cows).  Excitement was seeing a huge windmill farm, and scattered lone oil pumps (it was an extra treat when one actually had the pump arm moving).  The landscape changed from dirt/rock to green farms with trees.

The third, and last of the Sierra Trading Post Outlets we have not yet visited was right in our path in Cheyenne, Wyoming (1st one we visited was in 2004 in Cody, Wyoming, the 2nd was the other day in Reno).  We stopped in about lunch time.  We bought 2 items.  After eating lunch in the parking lot (well, in our van), we headed out again.  Our next stop was at Cabelas in Sidney, Nebraska.  We were hoping to pass one on the way home, as we needed a new mosquito zapper tennis racket - ours broke during the trip.  Luckily we got the last one on the shelf!  I got yet another pressed penny with Cabela's logo. 

We drove until dinner time to North Platte, Nebraska to Maloney Reservoir State Recreational Area.  There was a $4.35 entrance permit fee to the park (which we had to buy at the Sinclair Gas Station down the road) and $6 to camp.  The campground had boat ramp, and was real busy when we got there with day users, but quieted down for a pleasant evening.  It was not the best kept campground and lake was not clear, but if you didn't look too hard, it was all good.

A local family came over to chat with us about our VW, as the dad had not seen one in a long time.  To us it was warm and humid, but the locals seemed to think it was dry and comfortable.  We lit a fire only because we still had a roof load of wood we wanted to use.  We checked the facilities to find that indeed there was a shower house (not indicated in my book).  Brad shaved for the second time this trip. 

It actually rained overnight.  Besides the misty/drizzly day when leaving Seattle, we have not had rain until now.

8/16

Thu

Miles 614 long miles...North Platte, Nebraska, to Hampton, Illinois Mississippi River as seen from our campground, with lock and dam #14 in background, and lily pad marsh in foreground

The following are random pictures throughout the trip to entertain you as their is nothing exciting going on  anymore to take pictures of .

close up of a banana slug at the Ho Rainforest at Olympic National Park

Huge Paul Bunyan and Babe statues in Klamath, California

Cool vintage Arby's sign in Clarkston (I think), Washington

Highlight: One big stop at an Antique shop for 45 minutes....and Crossing to the east side of the Mississippi
Buzzkill: Long, boring day of driving on I-80. 

Iowa + I-80= corn fields

Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Not much to write about.  Rain in the morning, then mostly cloudy all day.  Brad drove first tank of gas, me the second, and Brad the last 2 hours to get over the Mississippi.

Besides gas, our only stop was an antique mall in Iowa for 45 minutes.  Spent $17 which included 2 Tootsie VW cars.

We drove over the Mississippi, and over the border into Illinois, and then 1.5 miles south off the highway to the campground.   We stayed at Fisherman's Corner Recreational Area.  We had to spend $16 for an electric site (this was the first electric site we had on our trip).  Did not even use it.  It was right on the Mississippi, but our site had bushes and shrubs blocking the view.  We were told a short walk would get us to the water.  This was a bit disappointing, as there was a few hundred feet of lily pad and other water vegetation.  No Huck Finn to be found. 

There was a completely empty loop of 30 sites in the campground, so we chose a site there, and had a nice quiet evening.  Second night in a row that the locust were noisy.  The weather was nicer than last night though...comfortable with no humidity.  We lit our potentially last fire (maybe Walmart for tomorrow night- who knows??). 

We are just shy of 1000 miles from home.  We plan to travel two more full days, and get home Sat. night.

Pondering questions:

What is the deal with gasoline?  Is 85 octane really 85 octane?  Can Vanagons use this??

What is E85 with ethanol?   Can Vanagons use this???

 We steered away from both of these all along our trip, but the pricing on the  station signs  lured us in many times.  We then purchased the 88 or 89 octane. 

8/17

Fri

Miles 548 miles- Hampton Illinois to Ravenna, Ohio Enjoying our last evening..

Today's set of random pictures from the trip to entertain you, as there were no good "sight seeing" photo opportunities .

Cool vintage sign in Roseburg, Oregon

Chipmunk at Crater Lake (what vivid colors and the contrast of trees/water)

Before getting on the real boat to go down the Rogue River

Highlight: The morning stop at the antique mall
Buzzkill: same as yesterday, just add soy crops to the never ending fields bordering highway
Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

Oh yet another boring day of driving.  We got on the road early after taking showers at the campground- and free showers too.  Besides gas stops throughout the day,  we stopped only in the morning to get oil changed at 9:00 am, which was 2 buildings over from an antique mall.  Bought some retro/vintage kitchen kitche.  Brad got nothing. 

We lost about a half an hour or so driving as we got off an exit just to switch off driving in Indiana.  I got onto I-94, which up to this point had been overlapping I-80, but now separated right at this exit.  With Brad providing navigation, we drove some secondary roads for about 50 miles that paralleled I-80, and eventually got back on the highway. 

At the Ohio border, there was some type sign on the highway that we really did not notice until we just about past it about not bringing firewood into Ohio.  No one seemed to notice our bundle in plain view on the roof (this is the free wood that we fot at the cottonwood Creek Campground in Tahoe National Forest).  . 

With the time zone change, and losing an hour, and the fact that eastern Indiana has many cities, finding public campgrounds was scarce.  We decided to drive later than usual by an hour and just rest our heads at Walmart in Streetsboro (right off I-80)....until we got to Walmart that is.  It was a small lot - not   Only one other camper was there.  On the map there was a state campground 15 miles south east of the town.  Even though a Friday night and now after 7pm, we thought it would be no problem as there were close to 200 sites.  WE also got excited that our last night on the road, we'd enjoy it by the campfire.

After driving 20 minutes to get to West Branch State Park in Ravenna, there was a big sign CAMP FULL.  We still continued 2 miles to the camp entrance for that lucky chance that maybe just one site was still open (hey after my Reno luck, you never know).  Well lady luck was on our side, as there literally was just one site available for the evening.  I controlled my as astonishment as the clerk said it would be $25...(what is this Long Island??).  It was not a secluded site, and was right next to a bustling Russian family reunion at the adjacent site.

We had our last campfire, played our last card game, and even opened a bottle of Washington wine I had  purchased where else, but in Washington. 

After the sun went down, next door quieted down a bit...by the time we turned it, so did they. We had a peaceful sleep.

 

 8/18

Sat

Miles  548 miles; Ravenna, Ohio to our driveway in Patchogue, NY

Today's set of random pictures from the trip to entertain you, as there were no good "sight seeing" photo opportunities .

Brad laying in the Colgate Spring in Idaho

Supposedly the largest Cedar tree in world....near Olympic National Park

Being pulled out at Lobster Creek Campground

One of the old, historic buildings in Shasta, CA.  The town thrived during gold rush.

 

Highlight: Pulling into the driveway.  A bit bittersweet knowing vacation is over, but happy that all the long hard hours of driving home are over.
Buzzkill:

the NY City traffic- Getting to the  George Washington Bridge  all the way to the other side of Throg's Neck Bridge

Summary:

 

 

 

 

 

No stops today for antiquing- just gas stops and rest area stops. 

There was a wrong turn onto Route 76 in PA (I-80 sneakily forked off "exit" style) that cost us some time, as exits are spaced few and far between.  Lost about a half an hour probably. 

Several construction work on I-80 cost us some time too, as traffic was down to one lane. 

Comfortable driving weather followed us home. 

The metro NY City traffic greeted us as usual.  Wasn't  as horrendous as we have experienced.  Having the EZ Pass for the tolls is wonderful.  In fact it even worked all the way into Illinois for us this trip. 

Got home about 6pm.  Our dog after not seeing us for a month, greeted us as if it were just this morning that she saw us last. 

We ordered Pizza for dinner. 

Time to unpack, do laundry, clean the van and plan our next adventure. 

Total mileage for the trip:  8486 miles this is Vanagon tripometer miles as I have been reporting.  As many Vanagon owners know, there is a margin of error in the odometer reading (my estimation is roughly 400 miles more than actual).  

 Information on Gasoline as there were several inquiries

average gas mileage 17 mpg.    

Cheapest gas was on way home in Lodi, NJ $2.559 per gallon. 

Most expensive was  in beginning of trip.  $3.399 in Howe, Indiana on 7/22/07

Gas total:  $1380

Camping total:  $310

Groceries & spirits / camp and travel provisions/ firewood  $1000

Other vehicle & traveling costs:  (tolls, ferry , car washes, oil changes) $160

Non-essential shopping (tangible, non grocery)/entertainment/trinkets  $1200

$4050 total